Your abandoned and unclaimed property staff has spent a great deal of time learning about unclaimed property, exploring different approaches, implementing policies and procedures, and uncovering all stale dated properties in your organization. Suddenly, a critical member of your unclaimed property team announces she is resigning her position. If you haven’t prepared, this situation can lead to stress, confusion and potential losses. The situation is doubly problematic if you haven’t prepared for transitioning ahead of time.
When you reassign unclaimed property duties or bring in new staff to replace those who have left, it can feel as though you’re starting all over from the beginning. What can be done to more easily pass the baton from one person to the next?
Unclaimed property process sustainability
The key to easy transitioning of unclaimed property duties lies in preparation, procedures and records management.
- Team approach. Make sure unclaimed property knowledge for your company is not held by only one person. It’s important to take a team approach, so team members can support one another under any number of circumstances. You may go so far as to assemble an unclaimed property task force with cross training that makes it possible for task force members to fill in for each other. When you lose personnel, this will help bridge the gap until a new person can be identified, hired and trained.
- Policies and procedures. Make sure effective policies and procedures are in place for your unclaimed property team, including clear instructions for managing unclaimed property records and reporting in each cycle. For best results during the transition, create a process handbook that makes it easier to train new personnel, and make sure it’s updated regularly.
- Introduce new personnel to all unclaimed property stakeholders and staff — anyone who touches unclaimed property issues. Make sure frontlines staff members have an opportunity to meet those who might be making leadership decisions going forward — for example, in the event of an audit. If introductions have already been made and leaders are familiar with unclaimed property personnel, it will be easier to obtain approvals in the future
- Unclaimed property locations. Clearly identify all locations within which unclaimed property resides in your company, so new personnel does not have to start from scratch to identify stale dated property. (For more help identifying unclaimed property within your organization, consult MarketSphere’s Encyclopedia of Unclaimed Property Types.)
- If possible, ask the previous unclaimed property staff member to train the new person before they leave. This will be easier if you have a procedures manual for unclaimed property. However, a lot can be gained from a personal description of the processes and idiosyncrasies of unclaimed property within your organization. Experienced staff can pass along informal tips and advice that is unlikely to make it into a formal manual.
- Transition timing. Unclaimed property is not a one-time annual activity like other business functions, such as tax preparation. Regular mandated reporting times (Fall: 10/31, Spring: 3/1 through 5/1, and Summer: 6/15 through 7/1) require unclaimed property personnel to be working off and on continually during the year.
Inevitably, loss of a member of your unclaimed property team will result in a loss of unclaimed property experience and knowledge. For smaller companies with minimal unclaimed property staff, this can be potentially devastating to your unclaimed property program. At the very least, loss of a staff member can cause a slowing down of even the most efficient unclaimed property department. Look to your professional unclaimed property specialists to help you fill in the gaps — and maybe, in the process, even find new ways to improve efficiency and effectiveness.
Transitioning to new personnel with a complex process such as unclaimed property can be a challenge. With a little preparation, documentation and planning, this transition doesn’t have to be a source of stress for your staff.